Todd Tilkens of Green Bay, Wis., has a fishing passion.
“I’ve fished all my life, but in the last 10 years, I’ve really been concentrating on the bay of Green Bay and have been trying to figure it out,” he says. “I took out friends and family and in the last few years, I had people telling me I should do this, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”
So, Tilkens, a retired Army veteran with 23 years of service, took the plunge and started his own guide company: Fish’n Walleye Guide Service.
He and his wife, Teresa, run the business. Tilkens says he’s fortunate Teresa is involved to handle the business side of things. She previously ran a home business, so she knows financial reports, taxes, marketing and regulations.
That way, Tilkens can focus on his fishing passion. He specializes in walleye in Green Bay, but charter passengers also catch Northern pike, perch, bass and more.
However, the veteran quickly learned that there’s a lot more to running a guide service than just fishing.
Tilkens had to buy a new boat and gear, get insurance, market the business and assure that regulations were being met. He also had to take classes and tests to become a Coast Guard-licensed fishing boat captain.
“It was an extensive process. Way more than I had imagined,” he says. “When I first thought about this, I just considered the fishing aspect and didn’t think about everything there is to do behind the scenes.”
Still, it seems like his fishing passion will help the business succeed. Tilken still works a full-time “regular” job, but when he’s not there, he’s looking for new hotspots to catch walleye.
The walls of Tilkens’s house are lined with trophy fish. The largest? A 33-incher.
Tilken says he hopes he can turn his fishing passion, and other outdoor pursuits, into a full-time gig.
His dream is to run fishing charters in the spring and summer and do whitetail hunts in the fall.